Europe’s push to revive battered economies looks to be on track, as coronavirus infections show no sign of a resurgence during the winding down of restrictions on daily life.
Officials in Germany, France, Italy and Spain are closely monitoring contagion data to see if looser controls are backfiring. That appears not to be the case, even if there have been some outbreaks connected to slaughterhouses.
While new cases are key, they’re just one of the indicators. Surveys conducted at random and tracking activity at doctors’ offices may be a better guide because they could gauge the risk before infections are confirmed.
Here is the situation in continental Europe’s major economies, as lockdowns of varying degrees of severity are lifted:
In a first step, German shopkeepers were allowed to start resuming business on April 20 after the nation appeared to bring the virus under control relatively quickly.
Schools were partially reactivated from May 4 and Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a broader return toward normality two days later, including reopening restaurants and hotels. Social-distancing rules remain in force, and some regions where infection rates are persistently trending lower are relaxing curbs more quickly.
Bavaria, which has the highest number of cases in Germany, Hamburg and Brandenburg announced more easing of restrictions on Tuesday for activities including sports and culture. Bavaria also loosened rules for restaurants, while Saxony authorized family celebrations.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has said that tourism will probably only recover gradually and safety measures will mean that vacationing domestically or in Europe during the summer holidays won’t be the same as before. Germany is expected to announce as early as Wednesday that it plans to lift a global travel warning for 31 European countries from June 15.
France started to gradually ease its lockdown from May 11, with shops allowed to reopen under strict hygiene conditions, and some students returning to school, depending on the local situation.
Some municipalities have since started to open parks and beaches, where social-distancing rules remain in force. Domestic travel restrictions have not yet been fully lifted, with most people banned from moving more than 100 kilometers from their residence.
The government is expected to decide by the end of the week if restaurants, cafes, and concert venues can reopen in time for the start of the summer season. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Tuesday he hopes the government can announce then that Europeans will be able to spend their holidays in France again.
After almost two months, Italy began emerging from lockdown on May 4, when about 4 million people went back to work, citizens were allowed to leave their homes for a run or a walk, and could buy takeout espressos and pizzas.
Most shops, bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen from May 18 with distancing rules, and Italians are again allowed to travel freely inside their home region.
The final restrictions will be lifted in June, with free movement inside the country and no requirement for travellers to quarantine when arriving in Italy from June 3. Theatres and cinemas can also reopen from June 15.
Spain began easing the lockdown imposed in mid-March on May 10, and the whole nation is now into the second or third stage of a four-phase plan.
The two biggest cities of Madrid and Barcelona entered the second stage on Monday. Social contact is still limited to smaller groups and restaurants and bars are only allowed to open terraces to 30% capacity, with no indoor seating.
Hotels can resume business as long as communal spaces aren’t used, and shops can operate up to 400 square meters of retail space. In other parts of the country, beaches have also been reopened.
The government has said that, as of July 1, it will no longer impose a two-week quarantine for travellers from abroad. The announcement came as part of a push to revive tourism, which accounts for about 12% of the economy.